STOKE CITY were stung by an injury-time winner from Birmingham City striker Nikola Zigic when they appeared on course to take a point from their Barclays Premier League visit to St Andrews.
A goalless draw seemed on the cards until 6ft 8in Zigic, once a target for Potters boss Tony Pulis, popped up to head home from close range to punish a mistake by goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.
The Bosnian international failed to hold onto a low shot from David Bentley and when Cameron Jerome scooped the ball over to Zigic, he rose above City's defenders to power his header home.
Though City created few chances themselves throughout the 90 minutes, the home side rarely looked like breaking down their stern resistance until that costly moment in injury-time.
Ironically, Robert Huth came the closest to breaking the deadlock for the Potters when he sent a left foot volley flashing just past the post after a Rory Delap throw-in had dropped to him in the box.
Pulis sprang one or two surprises with his team selection, preferring Danny Pugh to the other two Dannys - Higginbotham and Collins - at left back, while he made another change at right back where Marc Wilson was included in place of Andy Wilkinson.
The significance of Wilson's inclusion was soon underlined as he rose with the towering Zigic as the striker's header from a Larsson cross flew over the bar.
Larsson, who was linked with City in the transfer window, caused problems for Pugh with a burst down the right and when that was half-cleared, the Swede tried his luck again only to be blocked off by a firm challenge from the Potters defender this time.
Much of the action centred around the two full-backs and it was Wilson who had to recover from being caught in possession by Bentley, but the newly-capped Republic of Ireland international got back to stop the Blues midfielder in his tracks.
When City mounted some pressure on the Birmingham defence, a cross from Walters was dragged back at the far post by Pennant only for Johnson was be alert to the danger and he beat the incoming Jones to the near post cross.
Whitehead then did well to create an opening for Walters who cut inside from the left and tried his luck from the edge of the box which Foster saved comfortably, and then Carew let the ball run for him inside the box before his shot was blocked.
City were awarded a free kick 25 yards out for a foul on Pennant by Larsson, and it was the former Birmingham winger who curled the shot over the wall and just past the right hand post of Foster who would not have got to it had it been on target.
When Delap's determination won him possession 25 yards out, he picked himself up and opted to go for goal with a fiercely struck drive that was far too high.
However, as the half came to an end, Delap then caused problems with a long throw which found Huth bursting into the box, but his glancing header flashed over the bar.
Birmingham exerted pressure on the City defence in the early stages of the second half and went close to opening the scoring in the 55th minute.
The move was started by a neat back heel from Martins before Gardiner's crossfield ball found Larsson bursting forward and he cut inside to unleash a curling left foot shot which flew beyond the reach of the diving Begovic but just past the post.
City hit back and some fine work by Shawcross eventually released Carew down the right hand side, but his cross was overhit with Jones and Walters in the middle.
Some neat interplay between Jones and Carew on the edge of the box carved out an opening for the loan signing from Aston Villa but his shot curled wide.
When Bentley linked up with Larsson from a corner on the left, the Swede let fly with a 20 yard drive aiming for the far post, but it was marginally off target.
There were appeals for a penalty moments later when Bentley tried his luck with a volley from a similar position and it appeared to strike Huth on the right hand, but referee Halsey waved away the claims of the Birmingham players and their fans.
The City fans behind the goal which their side was attacking in the second half thought for a moment that Huth had scored again when a Delap throw fell to him 18 yards out, but his left foot volley actually hit the stanchion and rolled round the back of the net.
Both sides made changes in the search for a breakthough in the game with Jerome replacing Martins for Birmingham and then two substitutions in quick succession for City saw Whelan come on for Pennant and Jones make way Fuller.
Fuller was quickly in the action with one familiar run into the box that allowed Walters to send over a cross that was cleared and then he picked up possession 35 yards out and worked his way into a shooting position only to fire it wide of the far post.
City seemed to be heading for a point as the game went into injury-time, but Birmingham snatched a winner to boost their battle against relegation.
From a free kick, Bentley cut inside to fire a shot which Begovic failed to hold onto and Jerome scooped the ball over for Zigic to power home a header.